More and more people are concerned about the future and corporate social responsibility, also known as CSR, is even more important today. It implies an obligation of commitment from everyone, whether individually or collectively.
Companies are no exception to the rule, in fact, they must adapt their business model but also their marketing strategy. Firms have to keep up with the ever-changing needs of consumers who are increasingly looking to consume products that are manufactured in a more ecological manner and are themselves good for the environment. Nowadays, everything is becoming automatic, faster and simpler. This finally leads to a desire to also find the main needs such as the environment and the social aspect. Thus, companies must follow and show a positive behavior on the environment while also taking into account social issues. This willingness to pay more attention to CSR has been growing for years, laws have even been passed. However, CSR remains a contentious issue that is not entirely clear to everyone.
Thus, there is an increasing number of research dealing with the impact of CSR issues, and we can see different visions of CSR, sometimes even contradictory. However, a clear and general definition emerges: “[…] an ongoing commitment by companies to behave ethically and contribute to economic development while showing respect for individuals, communities, society as a whole and the environment“. In short, CSR combines the concepts of global citizenship, environmental stewardship and sustainable development, while keeping in mind the economic dimension at the same time.
Numerous international organizations, non-governmental organizations and groups of individuals fighting for the respect of the environment and human rights, target and pressure companies. The firms had no choice but to adapt.
CSR must be directly integrated into the values of the company but also into the general objectives in order to be effective. The standardization of CSR pushes companies to have the responsibility to implement sustainable actions aiming not only at increasing profit but above all at satisfying the objectives and expectations of the stakeholders. Stakeholders such as the company itself, the employees, the clients, the shareholders, the media and many others.
CSR has 4 dimensions:
When implementing CSR initiatives, companies are expected to have a real impact on the development of the economy while keeping in mind ecological issues, the well-being of employees, local communities, and society at large. Actions can be :
– partnerships that have a positive impact on the environment
– participation in voluntary environmental programs
– production methods that meet sustainable standards
– marketing strategies that seek to improve the lives of all by actively involving stakeholders
H&M, for example, hired the singer M.I.A., who is well known and loved by young people in China, to implement an online CSR campaign by making a music video promoting clothing recycling
Companies must therefore integrate CSR into their marketing strategy, such as social media for example. Social media is an effective and inexpensive way to convey a message that can be personalized, such as a company’s CSR commitment. It is also possible to use crowdsourcing to implement a CSR campaign as Yahoo did with its “How Good Grows” campaign. Toyota is also one of the companies that shared a CSR marketing campaign on Facebook with their “Cars for Good” campaign. Or even Starbucks that organizes once a month the “Global Month of Service” event and promotes it on different social platforms.
When a CSR marketing strategy is well executed, it allows, in the long term, to improve the reputation and the brand image of the company . Therefore, it could allow an increase in profits. Indeed, the communication of the CSR commitment allows the company to make public its vision of modern sustainable issues. Thus, firms can position itself on the subject. Communicating its CSR commitment via social media also allows the company to maintain a certain competitive advantage through differentiation. Furthermore, if the company implements good CSR initiatives, employees can be satisfied. This will be reflected in their behavior and attitude. And thus ultimately in their motivation and job performance. It is therefore a win-win situation.
This CSR marketing strategy has its limits. In fact, the fact of communicating publicly on a subject as sensitive as CSR can lead to skepticism from consumers. They will expect a lot of transparency from the company regarding their initiatives.
In addition, some companies proudly display their CSR commitment on their social media, but digging a little deeper, we notice that not all of them are fully transparent about their actions. One of the perfect examples of this is perceived greenwashing. It seeks to manipulate consumers into believing that the company is sustainable and implementing actions that are good for the environment and positive for employees and consumers, by also offering sustainable products and services when this is not always the case.